TORONTO -- Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said Tuesday that speculation and questions about his contract status did not impact how he prepared for this season and he doesn't anticipate them being a distraction for him going into training camp and eventually the regular season.
Stamkos is entering the final season of a five-year, $37.5 million contract. He became eligible to sign an extension with the Lightning on July 1. He can become an unrestricted free agent next summer.
"It hasn't changed my approach to how hard I've worked this summer to get ready for camp," Stamkos said from the NHL's Player Media Tour. "Obviously, I knew I was going through this [the Player Media Tour] this week, and we sat down and had discussions about how I would be asked about it, so just be prepared. I'm comfortable if I have to talk about this stuff. We're going to go into camp and anything can happen. It can be in the next day, the next week, if it goes a month or two months, I don't think I'm going to let it affect the way I go about and be the leader of the team or change my approach because there is no deal in place right now."
Stamkos said there have been discussions between himself, his agent Don Meehan, and Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman, but they all agreed to keep them private until there was something to reveal publicly.
"Both sides agreed that was the best way to go about it," Stamkos said.
Stamkos said for most of July he was hoping to have an answer to the questions he was being asked about his contract. Now, he said, he's letting the process play out, similar to what he did in July 2011, when he was a restricted free agent for 18 days before signing his five-year contract.
"It's a process, and for me this is the first time I've been in this particular situation," Stamkos said. "Five years ago it was a little different. You're a restricted free agent. Even that went past July 1 and the questions kept coming. I know we're a little deeper now, but when there is news to be made it's going to come out. Until then I think both sides agreed the best way to do it is to keep it internal.
"There have definitely been discussions."
Stamkos scored 43 goals and had 72 points in 82 games last season, then helped the Lightning reach the Stanley Cup Final by scoring seven goals with 11 assists in 26 Stanley Cup Playoff games. He has 276 goals and 498 points in 492 NHL regular-season games.